Bryan Catholic Charities moves to new location
By Mary P. Walker
On Sept. 6, members of the five parishes in Bryan and College Station joined representatives from the local community and the Diocese of Austin to celebrate the opening of Catholic Charities of Central Texas (CCCTX)-Brazos Valley’s new office. The program included a ribbon cutting ceremony, blessing of the building by Bishop Joe Vásquez, and an open house.
"This is a great sign of hope. I think people are going to feel comfortable coming here and seeking the help of the church," Bishop Vásquez said.
While CCCTX has sponsored a satellite office in Bryan since 2008, the previous location offered many challenges. That office operated out of a remodeled home, a building that was not designed for public access. It was too small, had maintenance problems, limited parking and was located far from many of the clients. These drawbacks, combined with the need to expand services, required the CCCTX office in Bryan to move.
"In order to meet the growing needs in our area, we had to grow as well. Our new facilities will allow us to do a better job of providing our current services and will allow us to bring new services to the area," said Vancy Mayes, Brazos Valley Social Services Coordinator.
Located at 1410 Cavitt Ave., near downtown Bryan, the building offers nearly 5,000 square feet of office, meeting, classroom, lobby and storage space. Purchased by the Diocese of Austin, the building was remodeled specifically to meet the needs of CCCTX, under the oversight of Deacon Ted Baker, who has extensive experience in managing such projects.
In addition to disaster relief, CCCTX has three areas of focus: Family Assistance and Referral, the Good Samaritan Gabriel Project Life Center, and Immigration Legal Services (ILS). All three programs are expanding and will benefit from the move.
The additional space and design of the interior allows caseworkers to see and help more individuals and families in a welcoming and private setting. Through the larger classroom and expanded parking, Good Samaritan is able to accommodate more students in their parenting classes.
The area is also experiencing a greater need for affordable legal assistance for low-income immigrants dealing with immigration issues. The new building allows ILS to increase the local availability of legal help, eliminating the need for some clients to travel to Austin for services.
Christina Reyes-Paiz, interim director of CCCTX, views the expansion of services in the Brazos Valley as a model that can be replicated in other communities within the diocese.
"We know it can be done. It’s being done here," Reyes-Paiz said.
Bishop Vásquez praised the good work of CCCTX in the Brazos Valley, and reminded those present that Catholic Charities is much more than a social service agency. During the blessing service, the bishop cited Pope Francis, who teaches that helping the poor is a holy endeavor. The poor are not just the recipients of our care; we are also spiritually enriched when we act in charity. He explained that when people come to Catholic Charities for help, we see the face of Christ is in their faces, and they in turn reflect the face of Christ back to us.
"Catholic Charities is making a difference in the lives of people. Catholic Charities is always about helping those who need assistance, recognizing the dignity of each person made in the image and likeness of God," Bishop Vásquez said.
Bishop Vásquez thanked the local CCCTX staff and those who worked hard to make the move a reality. In addition, Mayes praised the cooperation and collaboration that CCCTX enjoys with other local non-profit organizations, such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. This collaboration makes all those who seek to serve the poor and vulnerable more effective in their outreach, she said.
The Bryan/College Station community also welcomed the expansion of CCCTX. Bryan mayor, Jason Bienski, attended the blessing and expressed appreciation for the caring, local presence of Catholic Charities.
Before the blessing, the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce celebrated the new home of CCCTX with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Chamber of Commerce ambassador, Andrew Robison, said, "The prosperity of a community depends on businesses and non-profits working together to serve the public. We are blessed to have the vibrant outreach of Catholic Charities."